Commencement Honorary Doctorate of Laws at University of Minnesota

Minneapolis, USA

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Professor Hanson, for conferring upon me this prestigious honorary doctorate degree from your university, and to Professor Lucas, Professor Manson and Professor Fray for your recommendation and arrangements.

And I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to the Honorable Walter Mondale for your presence today. Mr. Mondale not only served as the Vice President and Senator of the United States but has left many distinguished contributions among which the deft handling of trade disputes between the United States and Japan during his Ambassadorship in Japan is well remembered. It is indeed a great honor to meet you today, Mr. Mondale.

I am very honored to be a part of the discussion on Health, Stigma and Human Rights here, at the conference hosted by the University of Minnesota.
For those of us who work in this field, and in particular, for those who suffer from discrimination, the subject of this conference, that is, the relation between disease and stigma, is a matter of great significance.

As I mentioned this morning, I have fought to eliminate leprosy for over 40 years and with the cooperation of many, we have come just a step short of eliminating the disease.

However, the struggle against discrimination associated with leprosy will still have to go on.

I am determined to continue to pursue a world without leprosy so that as many people as possible will be able to overcome the discrimination that they face.

This honor that you have bestowed on me will serve to encourage further activities in the future.

However, this honorary doctorate degree is not conferred upon me alone.

It would not have been possible without the concerted efforts of the many colleagues who have walked the rugged road with me, such as Prof. Frey and Prof. Yokota who are here with us today, and the cooperation of others such as Mr. and Mrs. Jose Ramirez and the many people who have been affected by leprosy.

I would like to share this great honor and joy with them all.